Shadows at Dusk

Marisa upturned the volume on her earphones as she crossed the elevated sidewalk. A clunky, metallic river flowed beneath her. The music could not completely mask the roaring of engines below, but Marisa made an effort to ignore it anyway. Out of all the involuntary sounds she heard, the girl reasoned, cars were one of the less intrusive. Once she had crossed Marisa turned down the volume slightly. The music in her ears was angry, screaming, with harsh lyrics about identity and pain. It accompanied the city’s humor quite well.

A glance at the watch on her wrist confirmed another two hours before sunset. Had the choice been available, Marisa would have wanted to halt the sun in mid-sky. Dusk meant a return home – rather, what her parents called home. To Marisa it was no more than a scarred, empty house. That autumn was abnormally cold. Marisa’s exhales became small, visible clouds. The girl pulled up the jacket’s collar to cover her mouth.

As she sat on a bench in an isolated, minuscule plaza, the shadowy humanesque figure approached her. Its edges blurred and trembled, like a flame. The figure’s face shifted too much to allow for real identification. Lonely. The word came in the form of a feeling rather than a sound. Silently, Marisa moved to the edge of the bench. The figure flickered in and out of sight, but Marisa nonetheless felt it sitting by her side. Beyond the music in her earphones, Marisa could hear the distant moaning of traffic.

Neither of them spoke. Both sat in silence, isolated from the world. None walked by that plaza anymore. New streets had been built around it. Pedestrians could shave off precious minutes off of daily commutes that way. Marisa liked that place. The one sitting by her side apparently did too, though Marisa could not be sure and did not care enough to ask.

The temperature further dropped and distant streetlights started turning on. Marisa stood up and pleasantly stretched her neck. Without so much as glancing at the sitting figure, she began walking away at a leisurely pace. The city responded to the darkening sky with artificial stars. Beautiful in a synthetic way. Marisa had begun crossing the elevated sidewalk when she turned around. The figure stood behind her, its dark shape contrasted with the city’s lights. Marisa blinked once, then resumed her walking. The traffic below drowned the sound of her music.

Marisa stopped once more, by the train station. She looked at the figure. Caramel eyes sought a face, and when they could find none, she continued staring.

“I have to go home.”

Home. The figure spoke without a voice. It said other words too, but Marisa could not understand them. Lonely. That same emotion it had emanated earlier grew stronger, accentuated by the descending darkness. Marisa turned off her earphones even if she knew they caused no interference. Old habits die hard. She tried to say she would return tomorrow, but found that the phrase made little sense to it. Of course, she thought.

“You can come, but don’t follow me home.”

An inappreciable nod. Marisa turned her headphones on again. She sat on the far end of the carriage – the most isolated place, as usual. The figure sat next to her and the two travelled in silence.

The monotone, electronic voice announced a stop. The figure stood up. Grateful. Marisa thought she had seen it bow, but could not be sure. As the train stopped and the figure advanced towards the door, Marisa waved subtly. She tried to see it through the window but could not. The train had another three stops left before her own station. As the remaining streetlights turned on, Marisa listened to the fast-paced and passionate music. A single daisy laid on the seat by her side.